There Are Still Nightmares: Reliving the Inner Terror of War 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

It was a good but exhausting weekend and yesterday at work was very busy and challenging. So this I am posting just a note today.

Saturday night, or rather early Sunday morning I had another of my high definition Iraq nightmares. Very realistic and terrifying. Once again I found myself being attacked while in a HUMMV and being thrown out of the vehicle with enemy gunmen closing in. During the nightmare I threw myself out of bed and looked up to see a gunman dressed in black with an AK pointed at me, so I tried to tackle him and when I awoke in a very groggy state I found that I was wrestling my television to the ground. All of this in my sleep. It took about thirty minutes to calm down. Minnie, Izzy and Pierre all came in to check on me and the left. Izzy gave me a short snuggle and I finally got back to sleep in enough time to get back up, go to breakfast and finish my sermon preparation. 

I find it amazing that ten years after I departed for Iraq that I still relive my greatest fears from when I was over there, traveling with small groups of American advisors and Iraqi troops throughout the badlands of Al Anbar. I was always afraid that our tiny convoys, usually just two or three HUMMVs and maybe an Iraqi vehicle or two would get ambushed by an IED and attacked. Being so small and mostly away from big concentrations of American troops with significant firepower we were very vulnerable. We got shot at from a distance a few times, mostly in Ramadi, and couldn’t return fire because we couldn’t see who was shooting at us. 

While we were there I seldom slept, even when we were back at our home base at Ta Qaddum to plan our next mission. That base was relatively secure but it had taken rocket and mortar fire before we got there. Thankfully that had ended but it was always in the back of our minds when we heard gunfire coming from the nearby town of Habbinyah. I remember doing a run around the airfield one day when I heard gunfire coming from the town with me in plain view of it. I ran faster than I think I ever have before to get out of the line of sight. T. E. Lawrence wrote of his time with the Arabs in the First World War “We lived always in the stretch or sag of nerves, either on the crest or in the trough of waves of feeling.” Those words well describe my time in Iraq. 

My nightmares include fragments of what happened as well as my fears that thankfully never materialized. Over the past three years I have ended up in the emergency room twice, once with a broken nose from these episodes. I suppose if I had been sleeping in my own bed, which I am not because my snoring has gotten so loud that Judy, who is profoundly deaf could not sleep even wearing ear plugs that took another 30 decibels off her hearing, that I would have gone to the ER again. In the guest room I didn’t run into my nightstand with my face. Even so it is not fun. 

In the past I have quoted James Spader’s character Raymond Reddington from the television series The Blacklist. Reddington told an FBI agent who had seen his fiancée murdered: “There is nothing that can take the pain away. But eventually, you will find a way to live with it. There will be nightmares. And every day when you wake up, it will be the first thing that you think about. Until one day, it’s the second.” 

That being said I am not depressed or in a funk and life is relative good. I am rather fortunate, despite the often terrifying reality of living with my PTSD and these bloody nightmares, things could be a lot worse. I do have nightmares but at least at the moment they are not dominating my waking hours.

Tonight I plan on watch the Major League Baseball All Star Game. I’ll write about that for tomorrow before moving on to other things. 


Padre Steve+ 


Filed under iraq, PTSD, Tour in Iraq

5 responses to “There Are Still Nightmares: Reliving the Inner Terror of War 

  1. Pingback: There Are Still Nightmares: Reliving the Inner Terror of War post by Chaplain Dundas  — @PadreSteve ‘s World…Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland | Talmidimblogging

  2. donnie mccollor

    …my Uncle was army in the WW2 Pacific…Canton Island…Morati Island…and the Philippine.Islands….for years .my Aunt learned never to wake him.from his dreams.ever……even if he was having a malaria attack….

  3. My father and mother were young adults during WWII.
    They hadn’t met yet.

    Both had their own experiences to deal with.
    Living in the frontline, shelling, shooting, allied bombing by mistake (living near the border with Germany), retaliation etc.

    My father and his father in the winter of 1944 (December 31th)on a horrifying march into Germany, forced labour.
    My mother and her family in January 1945 being evacuated to the north of the country in cattle trains.
    The horrors, the fears, the cold, the deaths on that journey of being to young, to old, to sick, or through allied planes shooting the train)
    Those pilots just saw a train on German territory, assuming probably that it was a train with ammunition on board.
    It is enough to so that both my parents had their own horrendous experiences to deal with.
    As my mother was able to tell about it, my father couldn’t, his experiences were to awful.

    As I have seen it these type of experiences leave your soal scarred. Those scars will never heal completely.

    As you have written:
    You learn in time to deal with them.

    • padresteve

      What happened in the Netherlands in 1944-45 is one of the least known human catastrophes of the war. They were caught between the British and the Germans after the failed Operation Market Garden in September 1944. It was a horrific time. I can only imagine what your parents went through.

      • Sorry for my late response!

        Yes, even for many Dutch, this part of the country, Province Limburg, it is unknown territory what happened here during WWII, and more specific from September 1944 till the liberation in may 1945.

        If you want to know more Google for ‘Operation Blackcock’
        Sadly, as always in describing military operations, the suffering of the local population has no place.

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